I am usually the one who writes about Faith on her birthday. But this year, my wife wrote something on her own Facebook account which expressed our feelings more beautifully. So I am going to share her thoughts about being the mother of our firstborn, who has autism.
Today is Faith‘s 15th birthday. It‘s been a long journey. Like all 15s, they have their growing pains. There are much angst, emotions and other issues. It makes it sadder when any 15 year old have to brace more than they should. Some have to deal with broken family issues, loss of loved ones, physical disabilities and so much more.
You‘ll be surprised how resilient some of our kids are. Sometimes they carry more than us adults think we are bearing. Sometimes they even have to be stronger than us so that we can feel better.
I admire my little Faith. She has to be stronger than any normal teenager. She has to brace herself every day just to overcome the small normal things we make her do everyday. It takes so much from her, to force herself to overcome the overwhelming sensory experience just to get a normal task completed, things we take for granted for, things we complain and gripe about.
For reaching 15, I celebrate with Faith on this special day.
She has done so well and I know she will do better with so much love her school teachers and my families have given her. I am forever grateful for the love, patience and time spent on her.
My Faith is strong. My Faith is beautiful. Happy birthday my little girl! You will always be my little girl and a very resilient one. We are so proud of you!
(In the previous episode, my mother and I are on a mother-son trip to Japan. We traveled by train from Tokyo to Aomori, planning to continue our journey to Hokkaido by slow train. Yes, I know we could have flown but that would be boring. Or waited for the launch of the Hokkaido Shinkansen due to launch in late March. But time and tide waits for no man… and his mother.)
We crossed over from Aomori, Honshu to Hokkaido via Hakodate and then took the train all the way to Sapporo where we spent two nights. The coastal view from the train ride was awesome, as the train took us through cities like Noboribetsu and Tomakokai.
Mom and I ate our fair share of Sapporo ramen and even did touristy things like riding the giant ferris wheel. These ferris wheels are in every major Japanese city I've been. Tokyo has one, Yokohama has one Nagoya has one, and Sapporo has one. It must be a thing.
For ¥600, it wasn't too bad an experience. We got quite a good view of Sapporo by night.
With Sapporo as our base, we took an unplanned random day trip to Otaru.
In Otaru, we ended up in Tenguyama, or 天狗山, because we jumped into the wrong bus. We wanted to take the stroller bus to town but got on the Tenguyama bus instead. But it turned out to be the right choice. After a ride on the ropeway, we discovered that the view up there was pretty spectacular. There was also a sizable skiing and snowboarding crowd.
Otaru is a touristy town but nice nonetheless. We took another bus and we ended up at the Sakaimachi shopping street. We resisted buying the glass souvenirs but caved in to some ice cream cones and dried cuttlefish.
Part of the reason we felt full was because everywhere we went along the street, there were food samples handed out. You can get pretty full just eating samples. Ahem.
From Sapporo we rode a train to Furano. We didn't expect it to be so quiet. Perhaps it was the end of the winter season, or folks went to the ski resort nearby instead.
But we didn't mind. It was a nice, quiet and beautiful town. The only challenge was finding dinner on a Sunday night. In the dead of winter. In deserted snow-covered streets.
After some walking, we found a drug store open and we bought instant noodles and drinks for dinner, just in case. We looked like a bunch of desperate fugitives stocking up on supplies for a mad dash to freedom.
But after we left the drug store, we did manage to find a yakiniku restaurant run by a mother and daughter team, and boy, did mom and I have a feast.
"Where are we going tomorrow ah?" asked mom, between bites of the giant prawns and scallop.
"Dunno leh," I said, my mouth filled with bibimbap and grilled pork.
That night, I did some research and declared, "Tomorrow we shall go and visit the town of Biei and see the famed Blue Pond!"
Tomorrow came and we set forth on a train to Biei. Only to discover that the Blue Pond was closed for maintenance and dredging works till April. We weren't the only ones who discovered Aoike was closed. Two young men armed with a tripod and their camera bags found out while waiting for the bus from Biei Station. At least we found out at the station itself.
No fear, such hiccups never deter my mother and me. We sallied forth to Shirogane Waterfall at Shirogane Onsen. The kind lady at the tourist office told us the waters there were ALSO blue and worth a visit even in winter.
A 30-minute bus ride later, we were there and yes, it was a lovely waterfall. Walking to the bridge that overlooks it took a bit of work though, as the ground was covered in snow and ice. My mother and I looked like penguins trying to walk without slipping.
As we took the bus back to Biei (which has way more attractions during the other seasons), we had to decide where else to spend our day.
Over a quick lunch of chicken stew (which was oh so lovely) in Biei, I picked Aibetsu, famed for its mushrooms and a shrine. Why didn't we go to Asahikawa, a bigger city with a famous zoo with its penguin march? Because my mother and I are rebels and like to go to ulu places and see quaint towns.
Also, mom has seen penguins march elsewhere before and says Singapore has a great zoo already.
Hey, who am I to argue with the woman who gave birth to me, right? So off we went, and jumped onto the infrequent train along the Sekihoku line to see "mushroom town".
Well, let me just say, Aibetsu is really really quiet. So quiet that the station had no staff present (perhaps because it was winter). And we proceeded to trudge through more snow for about a kilometre to the shrine, crossing the Aibetsu Bridge that crossed the Ishikari River.
We got a little lost along the way but found ourselves in a centre for training handicapped people for jobs. They had freshly baked An Pan buns and other pastries. All handmade. And freshly-made coffee. We made friends with the staff there and they directed us to the shrine, which was just behind their building.
After the Aibetsu shrine visit, we walked back to the station again, but this time powered by coffee and An Pan buns. We sat in the empty Aibetsu Station, seeking warmth from the furnace, while waiting for the 4.22pm train. Miss that train and the next train is after 7pm.
We decided it was enough for the day, and retired to our Furano hotel, ready for our next destination. But before that, there is laundry to be done, and I am the professional travel laundry person in the family.
My ¥300 laundromat awaits. Also, typing this on my iPhone while sitting on the toilet has made my left leg dead. Sayonara for now.
If updates are sporadic, I apologize because I'm traveling from Tokyo to Hokkaido with my mother, a retired teacher. We've so far traveled by train from Tokyo to Aomori, the northern part of Honshu and we are now in at Hakodate, southernmost Hokkaido.
I have discovered that your mother may leave the teaching profession but you cannot take the teacher out of your mother. She has a curious mind and because she taught geography and art, this trip brings out all her knowledge and love of her subjects.
It's been fifty years since mom came to Japan. Her first and only trip to Japan before this, was her honeymoon with my late father. And now she is traveling here with me. It's like a full circle.
Aomori by night.
Mom taking a photo with the Aomori market folks..
Aomori Fish Market.
Mom is never shy about asking for a photo with total strangers.
Aomori covered with snow. It is -2°C to 0°C here on this day.
We used to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the wife and I, but eventually it got too expensive, so we stuck to our wedding anniversary instead, which is not very far away, in March.
Anyway, when you have three kids, ages 10, 12 and 14, you don't really have time for the trappings of commercialized romance.
Our Valentine’s Day consisted of me taking Joy to church while the wife took Faith and Isaac to see the doctor on a Sunday morning.
The flu bug is not fun at all, especially if it hits two kids at once, and especially if your firstborn daughter has autism and can’t tell you where her discomfort is.
Then the afternoon was a blur. I vaguely remember driving one kid to maths tuition, fixing a broken wardrobe door, and buying a rose at the wet market for the wife, with Faith in tow.
Oh, wait. I managed to catch a power nap too. That was pretty awesome.
Faith had a small meltdown at the mall after dinner because she wanted to go home already and insisted on going down an escalator that was going up. It took both Isaac and me to pull her back and guide the very cranky and strong 14-year-old girl out of the mall and to the car.
At home, I played with my new camera and took selfies with Faith. "Smile at the camera, Faithie!"
Faith didn't smile for the camera but she did give me a surprise kiss. And because of muscle memory, I pressed the shutter button.
Now that is a Valentine's Day moment to remember.
I'm not sure if Faith will ever find her Valentine, her condition being so severe. But she will always have us, her family, to love and cherish her for as long as we live.
I love seafaring stories and The Finest Hours, based on a true story of a daring rescue by the US Coast Guard in 1952, did it for me.
Four men went out in a little boat to rescue the oil tanker SS Pendleton that broke into two off Cape Cod, and the leader of the group, Bernie Webber, is played with much restraint by Chris "Captain Kirk" Pine.
I actually like this less cocky Chris Pine better.
The love story bit is a bit hokey but the drama at sea more than made up for it.
I watched this in 3D and boy, do you feel the waves crashing down on you.
Casey Affleck also put up a fine performance as the strong and silent Ray Sybert, who became the de facto leader of the men on board the still floating rear half of the stricken SS Pendleton.
I should visit Cape Cod and see the beautiful coast there one day.
On the second day of Chinese New Year, when most eateries were closed, I was queuing at the crowded McD's with the son and whispering under my breath, "Please, may the person in front not be ordering 10 Big Breakfasts. Please, may the person in front not be ordering 10 Big Breakfasts. Please, may the person in front not be ordering 10 Big Breakfasts."
She ordered 10 Big Breakfasts.
Then the next fella ordered two Happy Meals to dine in. And six meals to go. Wah lau eh.
Good thing I had that lovely satay waiting for me at my 大姨's place.
Speaking of eating too much during CNY, my friend Jeff sent me this:
To all feasting this CNY, there will be lots of eating and drinking. A friend introduced me a type of weight loss plaster. Just need to paste it. Very effective. The whole treatment is 7 days. Can lose up to 10kg weight!!! And it is not expensive.
So I asked him, "Where should I paste the plaster?"
He probably didn't understand why I suddenly sent him that message in the midst of his school hours, but it's ok.
I made a mental note to remind my kids that no matter what trouble they find themselves in in future, they must always feel comfortable telling us, their parents.
Much later, he replied, "Don't forget to fill up the money box. I checked the box already."
And minutes later, "Hello?"
I replied, "Ok."
May the biggest problems we ever have to talk about, be mundane things like the family petty cash box running out of money. Or sticking to the 30-minute limit of computer time. Or clearing his Legos after playing with them.